Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beaten by Oprah and the elephant man

Dismayed by the lousy treatment of Julian Assange in the Australian press (a fleeting phenomenon, since the fascinating and sympathetic lord of Wikileaks has since become a well-represented and defended hero in our native land), I made a solemn resolution to cease reading The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald. It was worse than trying to give up smoking (a problem I solved successfully a couple of decades ago). I realized unexpectedly that the Down Under press is a fabulous source of constant entertainment, like the on-stage acts of a delightfully vicious stand-up comedian… providing laughs, groans, frights and ample themes for reflection. Indeed, if the absurdities that enhance the Aussie media did not exist, one would have to invent them. They constitute a certain way of seeing the world around us… or maybe, rather, of not seeing that world. I imagine a curious pair of hi-tech sunglasses that provide their wearers with an Aussie view of existence.

These days, if you were to put on these magic spectacles, your vision would be crowded out by the broad body of a smiling Afro-American female named Oprah Winfrey (whose celebrity would appear to be largely quantitative, since she seems to have no qualitative claims to fame whatsoever... or else they're well concealed). If I understand correctly, this famous hulk of mediocrity is currently parading around in front of subjugated hordes of dumb Aussies on the site of Sydney's old tram depot, now replaced by an empty shell that will be referred to henceforth as the Oprah House. Why the hell is she there, and what's she supposed to be doing? I have no plausible answers to such questions… which maybe shouldn't even be asked. Oprah has simply been dumped there, on the edge of Sydney Harbour, for better or worse, like a load of transported convicts. God will decide what might become of her. Happily, she hasn't got a life sentence. So, with a bit of luck, she might fuck off sooner or later back to YankeeLand, and leave her mindless Aussie hosts to pick up the bill. Shit, I can't figure out what has come over my compatriots. At times—in their adulation of the pope, or their new saint Mary (not to mention their political agitations)—they seem to have gone stark raving lunatic, hysterical like a cut snake.

Fortunately, I'm reassured by the story of the elephant man in Thailand. The gist of the drama is that an Australian visitor in Bangkok refused to buy a bag of bananas for an elephant. Worse, this tourist from Down Under dared to express his thoughts about touristic attractions (in the same silly way that I just dared to talk about Oprah). The Aussie righter-of-wrongs claimed, as a social moralist, that the elephant's owner was using his beast as a pretext for begging.

Fair enough, the Thai elephant man was indeed begging for bananas. But what we don't know is whether the bananas in question were meant to be consumed by the beast (which would be normal) or by his owner (which would indeed imply a situation that might be likened to illegal gains from prostitution). Be that as it may, the Thai elephant owner hit the ugly tourist in the face, which shut him up just as surely as if an elephant had rammed a banana in the Aussie's mouth. I urge you to read the original article, entitled Aussie 'attacked' by Thai elephant guide [display].

In the presence of all this excellent stuff, I'm a little ashamed to think that I might have envisaged, for an instant, the abandon of such rich and delightful sources of fathomless and inconsequential authentic Aussie nonsense as The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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